Friday, December 13, 2002

WELFARE FARMING AND WATER: A quick post from surgery land. (Lola's fine;L.A. traffic, as always, reminds us why we moved to Vegas.) Virginia Postrel (see item 5), Eugene Volokh and others are engaged in an interesting discussion around a rather bathetic New York Times story that appeared 12/8 about the decline of rural Ameica. The problem is that 70 years of welfare via farm subsidies has led to stasis, giving many farm-state residents incentives to remain dependent on agricultural welfare and maintain an otherwise-unsustainable lifestyle.

Farm welfare of another type could cause havoc in the Southwest, where a handful of farmers in the Imperial Valley of California are basically holding the residents of at least three states hostage. Farmers get water for next to nothing from the Colorado River and use it to grow cotton in the desert, among other things. Monday, farm reps deep-sixed an agreement which would have given the residents of Southern California, Southern Nevada and Arizona reliable water sources for several decades ... all because ag interests insist on keeping Stalinist-style farm policy alive. Had New Deal-era subsidies been allowed to expire years ago, people in these farm communities would have gradually adopted more sensible, productive ways of life and saved consumers a bundle in the process. An excellent overview of the Imperial Valley controversy appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Here's an editorial I wrote about the dustup that appeared Thursday. Gale Norton is headed to Vegas to help sort things out. (While she's in town, she'll meet with the editorial board of the R-J, which includes me.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

SOLIDARITY WITH SADDAM? Oh, great. The four Canadians who plan to be human shields have entered Iraq. It's one thing to stand up for the suffering Iraqi people and call for an end to economic sanctions (must I point out that, perhaps, Saddam's actions may have something to do with their continuation?), but to place yourself in harm's way on Iraqi territory is pretty damn close to siding with the dictator, is it not?

Fred Hiatt sounded a similar note in a Washington Post column yesterday on "Saddam's Lawyers" in the antiwar left: "The opponents of war often claim to be speaking for the Iraqi people. In any dictatorship, it is impossible to gauge how the people feel, particularly in one as brutal as Iraq. Two years ago the Revolutionary Command Council added 'amputation of the tongue' as an approved punishment for anyone who speaks ill of Saddam Hussein or his family."

Again, this is not an argument for or against military action. But it is awfully difficult to distinguish between reflexive anti-Americanism (or opposition to liberal Western culture, for that matter) and what passes for pacifism these days.

Sad to say, one of the Hollywood celebs who attended the anti-war press conference today was the wonderful Tony Shalhoub. If you're a fan of TV whodunits, his new ABC/USA Cable show "Monk" is a keeper. One reason it's so enjoyable, as noted by S.T. Karnick in National Review Online, is that while Monk's character is an extreme obsessive-compulsive (to the extent he's been institutionalized), the show in no way treats his disability in a mawkish fashion. Indeed, it's Monk's maddening fixation with order which makes him a brilliant detective. The show's a delight to watch, notwithstanding the star's politics.

LOTT-A NONSENSE: Strong piece on National Review Online by Robert A. George on why Trent Lott should be dumped by Senate Republicans ASAP. Some highlights:

Lott's Monday night "apology" "was very nice and, all things considered, one might give Lott the benefit of the doubt — if he didn't have a record, unmatched by any other current leading Republican of paying homage to a romanticized view of the 'old South.' ...
"Perhaps Sen. Lott should ask Alabama-born Condoleezza Rice — whose childhood friends were killed in a church bombing — if she believes her life would have been better if Strom Thurmond had become president. ...
"Most people don't expect a 100-year old Thurmond or an 85-year-old Robert Byrd (D., W.V.) to completely escape their racist pasts. But Trent Lott is an adult baby boomer, of the same generation as the current and previous presidents. The leaders of this generation supposedly went through the '60s and supposedly learned a few things about race. That seems true of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But Trent Lott is waxing nostalgic about the Confederacy and Dixiecrats."

Besides, as George points out, Republicans can offer any number of superior alternatives, from Bill Frist to Mitch McConnell to Don Nickles, who actually stand for something and would not embarrass the party, its faithful, or the nation, for that matter.

Monday, December 09, 2002

THAT THING CALLED LIFE: Just got started in the blogosphere, and already I need a vacation. Seriously, though, postings may be light for awhile. I'm still digging out from the graduation party we threw for Lola (UNLV Hotel College, Class of '02) Saturday. She has left for L.A., where she'll have hand surgery Thursday. I'll join her Wednesday night, and thanks to the Postrels, I'll have a place to crash while she's in the hospital. We'll be back in Vegas Saturday or Sunday.

Speaking of the Postrels, Virginia is seeking reader input for a new photo for her site. Vote early and often.

I'M A LITTLE BEHIND THE CURVE ... but if you're a frequent visitor to blogdom, you're aware that Reason, where I spent nine wonderful years, launched its own in-house blog this weekend. It'll be a must-read, I'm sure.